Sometimes I go to the theatre to be emotionally moved. At other times to gain a new
political perspective. But sometimes I go just to be entertained and this production did exactly that. Focusing on a pair of newlyweds in 1960s New York and their odd-ball neighbours, Neil Simon’s Barefoot in the Park is jolly good fun from start to finish.
The sitcom-style plot line and dialogue is inoffensive and puts the audience at ease, while the New York setting and contrasting characters is reminiscent of an episode of Friends. As the young bride Corrie, Faye Castelow has the charm and vivacity needed to play a quirky character and the audience can see why Dominic Tighe’s dashing Paul falls in love with her. Together the pair smooch their way through the first act and you often find yourself fondly thinking: “get a room to yourselves”.
Playing the young bride’s mother, Maureen Lipman’s impeccable comic timing has the
audience roaring with laughter. Add into the mix an eccentric neighbour played by Oliver Cotton and you have a brilliantly balanced cast. Cotton is likable and full of joie de vivre as the exotic Mr Velasco who tempts Mrs Banks into that third, forth, even fifth Martini.
The other main character in this production is the apartment itself. It’s no easy feat to create a sixth-floor apartment with a broken skylight that lets snow in, but Tom Goodchild has produced a playground for the actors to work in. Lipman as the director of this production does so meticulously, and creates a world outside the apartment through the actors’ entrances alone.
Similarly to an episode of Friends the play does fall short of inducing any belly-aching laughs, but I suspect that any slightly older audience member would be tickled pink by it. Barefoot in the Park is a warm and funny. Given the choice between a television sitcom and watching Lipman attempt to piece together the events of the night before, while wearing nothing but a man’s dressing gown and slippers, I know which I would choose. Even if it is a cautionary tale against drinking too many Martinis!